The first time it took the mat for a dual meet this season, the Toll Gate wrestling team dropped a 48-34 decision to Smithfield. Since then, though, it’s been smooth sailing against league competition.
And now the Titans seem to be picking up speed.
Toll Gate topped Central Falls and previously unbeaten Johnston on Monday then continued a busy week with another sweep on Tuesday over East Greenwich and Woonsocket. The victories moved the Titans to 7-1 in Division II action, which is good for first place in Division II-South.
“I feel pretty good,” said head coach Jerry Sabatelli. “Right now we’re healthy, and that’s the main thing because we don’t have a lot of depth. As long as we stay healthy, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Last year, the Titans got off to a similar fast start before injuries and a few other personnel losses sent them into a skid. They still finished 10-6 but were on the outside looking in for the division title, which they had hoped to contend for.
They’re hoping to contend again this year, and they certainly seem to be on the right track, both in terms of health and what the team is doing on the mat.
“They’re a pretty motivated group,” Sabatelli said. “I think they understand what they have to do and what they’re going for here, and I haven’t had that in a couple of years. As long as they stay motivated, we’re going to be tough.”
Heading into their meets this week, the Titans went out of league action to take on Division I teams Hendricken and Mt. Hope last week. They lost both but the experience gained in those matches was the key.
“I thought we wrestled them well,” Sabatelli said. “That’s why we wrestle those schools, to see how we measure up and get these guys the experience.”
And the Titans built on it pretty quickly.
Johnston figured to present a big challenge in Monday’s meet. The Panthers came in with a perfect 6-0 record in D-II, and their lineup has no shortage of talent.
The Titans didn’t look the slightest bit intimidated.
In the first match of the night, Colin Higgins pinned Johnston’s Isaiah O’Brien, starting an early run that put the Titans firmly in control. Austin Medeiros pinned standout freshman Jesse Ribezzo in just 40 seconds at 113. Max Procopio followed with a hard-fought 6-2 victory over Mike Caparco, another standout freshman, at 120. Johnston forfeited to Aaron Travers at 126 before Dante Procopio scored a third-period pin over Tim Tedesco to put the Titans ahead 27-0.
“Our strengths are down low,” Sabatelli said. “Coming up here, I thought it would be closer than it was, but I got some big wins.”
Josh Ribezzo got Johnston on the board with a pin of Joe Martinez at 138, but the Titans continued to hang tough – even when they weren’t winning. At 145, Johnston’s Justin Caparco was pushing hard for a pin but John DiGiuseppe wouldn’t let him get it, staying off his back and only letting Caparco get a 6-2 win.
Toll Gate got back on the winning track with a 12-3 victory by Dave Navilliat over Derric Vigeant at 152, making it 31-9. Senior Tim McCorkle then all but sealed the victory with a pin of David Alvarez at 160.
Johnston got pins in the next two matches, and Toll Gate took the two after that on forfeits. Tim Warner finished off the 40-21 Toll Gate victory with a 3-0 win over Mike Delsanto at 285.
“I thought they wrestled well,” Sabatelli said. “There was a lot of hype with some of these Johnston kids, but my guys were ready. I told them, ‘You’ve got to bring it.’ We want to stay on top of the division and win these crossovers. Johnston isn’t at full strength yet. They’re going to be tough to beat later on. We caught them at a good time, but we’ll take it.”
After the win over Johnston, the Titans stayed on the mat to wrestle Central Falls, and they once again took care of business, winning 53-27. Warner, Dante Procopio, Justin Allen and Joe Mercurio had pins for the Titans, while Navilliat won by tech-fall. Central Falls forfeited four matches.
On Tuesday, Toll Gate beat East Greenwich 51-27 and Woonsocket 61-15.
Against the Avengers, the Titans got pins from McCorkle, Dante Procopio and Corey Longworth. Higgins won by decision, and the Titans picked up five forfeits.
Against Woonsocket, Toll Gate won five of the seven contested matches, with Dante Procopio, Max Procopio and Navilliat winning by pin. Aaron Travers won by decision over Woonsocket’s Joshua Hidalgo, and Martinez posted a major victory over Mark Roman.
Tuesday’s matches were the last of the week for the Titans, who will now gear up for another busy stretch next week. They’ll wrestle against Lincoln on Monday at Johnston before visiting Tolman on Wednesday and hosting Hope on Thursday at 7 p.m.
“We’ve just got to keep it going and keep it rolling,” Sabatelli said.